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Annual sessions will help state

Our Opinion

Oregon voters can bring greater predictability, accountability and nimbleness to the state's legislative process by approving Measure 71 in the Nov. 2 election.

At first blush, this constitutional amendment - which requires the Legislature to meet every year instead of every two years - might seem to be an invitation to greater legislative meddling, expense and a first step toward establishing a professional Legislature. But when voters consider the protections that are written into Measure 71, we believe they will realize that this proposal actually would enforce stricter time limits on legislative sessions and provide for a more timely response to the state's complex issues and ever-changing needs.

Under Measure 71, the Legislature would continue to meet in odd-numbered years, as it does now, but with a new requirement that sessions be limited to no more than 160 days. In even-numbered years, legislators would convene in Salem for a maximum of 35 days. The time limits could be extended only with a two-thirds supermajority vote of both legislative chambers.

This measure, which was recommended by a bipartisan public commission and referred to voters by legislators, would help preserve Oregon's commitment to a citizen Legislature. Lawmakers who have outside careers would benefit from the greater predictability of this legislative schedule.

The Legislature already is meeting on a yearly basis by convening for special sessions in even-numbered years. In the modern world, it is no longer able to adhere to a biennial schedule that was established in the wagon-train days of 1859. Financial decisions, in particular, cannot be put off for two years in a state that has an all-funds biennial budget of $60 billion and a revenue forecast that shows future deficits as far as the eye can see.

Measure 71 would bring constitutional order to a practice that's already in place, while also setting up rules to force the Legislature to get its business done more efficiently. Voters should approve this change.